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Tuesday
Jun012010

A Hummingbird In My Garden

I was standing on my patio last week when something zoomed past me like a tiny jet aircraft. It was the first hummingbird of the season!Ruby throated hummingbird, public domain photo. Sorry, I didn't have a good photo of my own!

Here in the southeastrern United States we usually see the ruby throated hummingbird. I am fascinated by these little birds which, if they were the same size as a hawk, would be the tyrannosaurus rex of the bird world. I enjoy watching their aerial acrobatics and combat maneuvers as they aggressively defend their favorite flowers or hummingbird feeders. With the ability to fly over thirty-four miles per hour and with an average wing beat of over fifty times per second, hummers are also the only birds that can fly backwards.

They usually pass through my garden later in the summer during their migration to northern Mexico or Central America, but I am hoping that my yard has finally attracted some nesting hummingbirds. The female builds her thimble sized nest on a tree branch and often uses spider silk to bind it together. This allows the nest to stretch a bit as the baby birds grow. By the way, the male doesn't help with parenting at all. Once his part in the fertilization is accomplished, he is off to find more females!

Young birds feed on small insects and spiders, which provide protein for growth. They fatten up on sugar nectar before migration, visiting hundreds of flowers and consuming up to five times their body weight of the sweet stuff daily. This makes me realize how paltry are the few flowers I have. I need to plant more flowers for the hummingbirds!

Hummingbirds love red flowers, but they are drawn to other colors, also. One day last summer I was in my garden, wearing a bright blue shirt with orange and purple blossoms printed across it, when a hummer buzzed me. At first I thought he was attacking me as he dived toward my shoulder several times. Then I realized he thought I was a flower! Attractive flowers are rich in nectar and often have tubular shapes that perfectly accomodate the hummingbird's long, slender beak. The eager bird quickly realized I had neither.

Here are some of the flowers I have planted for hummingbirds:Top: Lantana. Clockwise from above: Penstemon 'Husker's Red', which will have white blooms, and Salvia 'Mesa Azure'; French Hollyhock; Nicotiiana; Autumn Sage

All of the above flowers are just beginning to bloom and will grow and soon become lush. I also have butterfly bush, monarda didyma, and hibiscus which will bloom as the season progresses. Hummers also like the honeysuckle and trumpet vines that grow wild amidst some of my shrubs. Hummingbird feeders help, too. I make a solution of one part white granulated sugar to four parts water. I microwave it for at least six minutes and allow it to cool before filling the feeders. I never use commercial products containing food colors or additives, and I clean the feeders regularly to help prevent the spread of disease. 

I will see more hummers in my garden by July, and the last stragglers will pass through in November. They will fly five hundred miles, non-stop on their southern migration across the Gulf of Mexico. They travel during hurricane season, and I always say a little prayer for them. Hummingbirds live up to a decade and will often visit the same feeders each year. I admire these feisty little birds, and I hope my yard will soon be on their list of favored places.

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Reader Comments (18)

Great post Deb. Some great info on hummingbirds. When our yellow jasmine vine was in bloom we saw one little hummer, none since. Hope you are having a great summer.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

They are a joy! I saw my first one at my feeder a week ago. Here's hoping you get some nesters in your garden.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

Hummingbirds are such a treat to see in the garden. Their favorite flower in our garden seems to be Brazilian Blue Sage.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Bay

Fab hummingbird photo!

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMNGarden

Fascinating information Deborah and what a great shot of one so close. We don't have these little birds visiting our country. I hope you finally get some nesting in the garden after all the effort you have done to encourage them.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

Beautiful hummingbird photo! Ya know, we live in a part of Florida where we have hummingbirds everyday of the year. They love firebush, bottlebrush, and powderpuff in my garden. Oh, and aloe when it's in bloom. I see them all the time here, yet have a very difficult time capturing them with the camera. I have a point-and-shoot that has a lot of trouble focusing when I use the zoom. Ugh. Actually, the only thing my camera does okay is macro shots. Portraits and landscape shots are also poorly focused. I'm sure you wanted to know all that. ; ) Anyway, great shot!

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFloridagirl

Fascinating information Deborah and what a great shot of one so close. We don't have these little birds visiting our country. I hope you finally get some nesting in the garden after all the effort you have done to encourage them.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

It's neat that the Hummingbirds come to your garden. I have never seen one here in South Florida. They must be around but don't stop here at the sandpit.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersanddune

It's neat that the Hummingbirds come to your garden. I have never seen one here in South Florida. They must be around but don't stop here at the sandpit.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersanddune

Gulf of Mexico? Poor little birds, that is a frightening journey today.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterelephant's eye

What fascinating birds they are, I didn't realize they lived so long. Thanks for the info.

Last fall I noticed many many Anna's hummingbirds here. But this spring, for the first time, I've been seeing Rufous Hummingbirds. I just love them, and hearing their high-pitched twit-twit noises coming from the tree tops. I just planted some scarlet runner beans, as they have glorious red flowers, up in the vegetable gardens. We can eat the beans, but I really planted them for the flowers...and the birds, and bees that I hope will enjoy them.

It is hard to get a photo of those fast, little things. They are very cute close up and I love watching them. I had one fly right by me the other day, too. Pretty blooms!

Hello Deb, I just can't get enough of pictures of hummingbirds! I adore them! While we have some honeyeaters that are kind of similar, we don't have any hummingbirds in my part of the world, so I found your extra info very interesting. Could I pester you to take a photo of a nest if you happen to get one in your garden? Heidi.

June 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

Your garden is well prepared for these unique birds! I love your French hollyhock especially!

June 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

What a cutie pie. I love how they come visit our gardens then think that it belongs to them. :)

June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

I have a flat roof over the bedroom, and the local crows use it for take-off practice. You get hummingbirds, I get crows clodding up and down my bloody roof at 5.30am!

June 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Idiot Gardener

I LOVE hummingbirds!!! Have not seen one here .... yet. And, I've planted mostly red flowering annuals near my window with hope of a hummer. I took a great photo of one last year through the window when he sat down to rest... I love to see that -- they are always so quick. It's nice to see one sitting quietly!

June 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

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